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Jeff Humphreys

The New York Times talked with Jeff Humphreys, director of Terry's Selig Center for Economic Growth, about how the state's economy is playing out in political races.  

The Times reported: "Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the country, an unsettling position for a Sun Belt state accustomed to good fortune. It has regained 87 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, according to the Labor Department’s survey of nonfarm payrolls. But according to its broader household survey, which also measures self-employment and the farm sector, it has regained only 42 percent, said Jeff Humphreys, director of economic forecasting at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

"The recession hit Georgia unusually hard. Its sprawl, especially around Atlanta, had built an economy heavily dependent on home building and real estate. But its manufacturing sector was also skewed toward building materials like wood products, flooring and carpeting. And growth depended on in-migration of plants, regional offices and corporate headquarters from all over the country.

"All of that was wiped out by the financial crisis, which also shut more banks in Georgia than anywhere else, destroying relationship-based lending and hurting small business. Home prices fell 28 percent, wiping out the equity used for lending collateral, Mr. Humphreys said.

"The resulting dislocation and uncertainty have hollowed out the middle, creating political openings for both Mr. Perdue and Ms. Nunn. North on Interstate 75, Dalton, the “carpet capital of the world,” has the highest municipal unemployment rate in the state, 10.7 percent."

The full article is available online.